Review: Abbi Glines – As She Fades

Abbi Glines
As She Fades

Vale and her boyfriend Crawford are in a horrific accident the night of their high school graduation. Crawford is in a coma and Vale needs to make a decision to move on or not. When she goes to college she discovers that life can be very different.

Let me start out by saying first that this novel was terrible. Really terrible. The first half is lovely: the (seeming) main character developed well and I enjoyed the writing style. Unfortunately half way through the whole picture changed and I was left not wanting to finish the novel. I honestly no longer cared about anything that happened to Vale because her life was so boring and her real self so pathetic. Not to mention that Slate suddenly turned into a pile of goo.

What’s with the title? I don’t see anyone fading except the uncle, and even he makes it for most of the time! His totally inappropriate banter tries valiantly to save the novel but it can’t make up for the rest of the characters.

1 star from me. Don’t waste your time, because there are so many other good things out there. I stopped reading and was sad I had devoted time to the first half of the novel – if I had known what would transpire I would have skipped it.

Pan Macmillan | 2nd January 2018 | AU $14.99 | paperback

Review: Lisa Jackson – After She’s Gone

After She’s Gone
Lisa Jackson

Cassie’s sister Allie has gone missing so Cassie checks herself out of the psychiatry ward to find her. Cassie is still suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, and doesn’t even know how to look after herself. If there was ever a girl in need of a Hero, it’s Cassie, Allie and their famous mother. Can they find Allie in time? Does Allie even want to be found?

Oh dear. This novel sat on my shelf for about 2 years before I picked it up. I just wasn’t feeling another strange disappearance or mystery after try not to breathe and Painkiller. That’s the problem with copy-cat authors that produce all the novels that are compared to Girl on the Train or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I get that they must sell well, and thus it’s not really the authors’ faults they have to write that stuff as no doubt publishers pushing for it.

Um Hollywood glamour (or rather just hints at it being important but it’s really not) does not make a novel! Especially for someone who doesn’t really follow or understand Hollywood the way a homegrown North American might. I found myself completely and utterly confused most of the time (ringing any bells like Ankaran Immersion?). The protagonist was an unreliable narrator, which would have been fine if everything else in the plot hadn’t been jumbled up. And then the other characters were also confusing as hell with a healthy does of insanity themselves. There was no redemption for anyone. Anyone heard of counselling?

I ended up reading about 1/6 of the novel before I started skipping forwards to try to get to a meaty good bit! But alas, I found myself just skipping all the way to the end where, because I hadn’t actually connected properly to any of the characters, I was utterly indifferent to who the baddie was and was kind of hoping that they all died!

1 star from me. Don’t bother attempting it.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2016 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Benjamin Zephaniah – FACE

FACE
Benjamin Zephaniah

I’m a Gangsta yo, I’m a Gangsta! Wait, no, wrong novel. Martin gets by on his good looks and charm, trouble making his way effortlessly through the gangs at school. Accepting a ride with the wrong friend and getting into a police chase is bad news – bad news for his FACE.

Oh gosh. This was terrible. I skimmed the first half so I could get to where the FACE business actually happened. Then I was so disappointed in Martin’s eventual internal monologue about his face that I just dropped the book. I could have even dropped it in the pool, it was that terrible! The supporting characters might have actually had something to do in the second half of the novel, but I wasn’t waiting around to find out.

Nice to see a female character that won’t take no Shiz, but seriously, do you have to make it so darn obvious? Yes, we get it, she’s amazing and a ‘real woman’ but no need to keep drumming it in. Wow, she’s a human girl! And she too has feelings! I would hope that a teenage boy reading this novel could separate out the fact that if a girl has to act like that to get you to do the right thing, you’re doing something wrong!

I’m sure there is an audience out there for this novel, but it’s not me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not other Australians (strangely enough given the publisher). It’s set in London with gangs, which is something that doesn’t feature in the current young Australian’s highschool years as far as I know! Maybe it is more prevalent in Sydney since I’m a Melbournite at the moment?

I couldn’t face Gansta Rap by the same author, so I’m not sure what made me think that I could go for this one. I took it along for holiday reading so I would at least attempt it. I’ll save you the trouble – don’t even attempt it. 1 star from me.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU $14.99 | paperback

Review: Roxane Gay – Hunger (A Memoir of (My) Body)

Hunger (A Memoir of (My) Body)
Roxane Gay

After a horrific gang rape, the only way Roxanne knows how to cope is to make herself fat and undesirable to men. This novel is a story of how she tried to come to terms with the rape by herself, and also how she mostly recovered from her eating disorder(s) that occurred as a result of her traumatic experience.

Please keep in mind that I am not discounting or demeaning the author’s experiences at all. This is a review of the writing style, and I just couldn’t get into it. For example it is kind of present tense, and also past tense.

I know I am going to be ripped into for saying this, but this wasn’t a good memoir and I didn’t enjoy it at all. In fact, I didn’t finish it. I at least finished Patient 71, the last novel that generated contentious comments now. It’s non-fiction, but I’d give it 1 star.

Review: Scot Gardner – SPARROW

SPARROW
Scot Gardner

Sparrow has been consigned to prison, sent out on boot camp with a bunch of crazies. When the boat just happens to explode, Sparrow makes his break for shore and freedom. But is freedom and isolation what he wants?

Flicking back and forth between Sparrow’s present and past, this novel had the potential to endlessly entertain a reader. Not me though. I couldn’t finish reading it. Sparrow’s constant internal monologue that was supposed to take the place of a spoken voice set me on edge.

It reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it is just a wordless boy who has escaped into the forest with basically no survival skills. Sorry Sparrow, but I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t empathize with you as a character. I much preferred Thirst, although it also lacked reality.

You want a nice novel with selective mutism? Perhaps the infamous So Much to Tell You, or the more recent A Quiet Kind of Thunder will take your fancy. Don’t bother with this novel. 1 star.

Allen & Unwin | 26th July 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Libba Bray – The Diviners

The Diviners
Libba Bray

Evie O’Neill has freed herself inadvertently from her boring old hometown of Ohio by telling too much of the truth. Now in New York, she has the run of the town – but Naughty John is on a occult killing spree that she has to prevent.

I got almost half-way through this novel, and nothing had happened. No-one I cared about was in real danger, and the Beast didn’t actually feel like a real threat for ‘normal’ people. From what I read from the blurb I think the myriad of characters eventually team up? But I didn’t see any of that, and instead I found myself again wondering why I cared about anyone’s outcome.

Let’s be honest here. I was probably never going to like a novel that was set in the 1920s, where the main character was a drunk flapper girl who didn’t appreciate the gift she had. I like a touch of the supernatural as much as the next person, and I realise that not everyone has morals when using a gift. But honestly? Evvie is an idiot.

I received the third novel of this series for review from Allen and Unwin, but I will not be reading it. Don’t waste your time on this novel either. DNF – 1 star.

Review: Michael Tolkin – NK3

NK3
Michael Tolkin

North Korea released a virus that turns people into Drifters, or essentially, Zombies. Some people are immune, or have been retrained in time. All technology has been lost – except one plane out of there. I didn’t hang around long enough to find out if they even left.

“Deliciously dark prose”? Try incomprehensibly dark plot line. I tried desperately to connect with any of the characters, but instead found them falling out of my mind faster than a Drifter forgot their families. Skipping around different perspectives gives this novel nothing worthwhile, and just left me confused and irritated. There seemed to be no forwards plot that I could identify in the first half of the novel, and after that I gave up.

Looking for a virus/biohazard take-over-the-world thriller? Try SKITTER or The Ego Cluster. Want something with Zombies? Try The Rains (review to come). This one is probably not going to be for you unless you enjoy incomprehensible plots with characters that you can’t connect with. I couldn’t finish this novel. 1 star.

Allen & Unwin | 31st October 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: E L Croucher – The Butterfly on Fire

The Butterfly on Fire
E L Croucher

A tragic, unchanging truth keeps three different lives twined to tell the same story. Eric realises he is different to everyone else, while Beam tried to balance everything in life. Finally, Queen Fabuki has had an innocent die at one of her shows – and she doesn’t know how to stop the mysterious intruder.

feel terrible about this novel. In fact, when I started writing a review for it (some months after I had started it), I started reviewing the wrong novel. I had read The Road to Transition one late night too, and somehow the two had merged into one. I had previously interviewed the author as well. 

I just couldn’t finish this novel. I actually started reading this novel when I couldn’t sleep one night and I sat with the fish tank light glowing on me. It added some nice atmosphere, and I did get a couple of chapters read. In the end though, it unfortunately served as a nice soporific to send me back to bed.

 

If you are desperate to read some more stories about transition, maybe this book could be for you. For me, because I couldn’t even bear finishing it, it’s getting 1 star. Maybe a second iteration would be ok, but I’m not willing to try again on this one.

Review: Nick Lake – Whisper to Me

Whisper to Me
Nick Lake

Cass hears a voice. Just one, but that one tells her to hurt herself and not talk to other people, otherwise it will cause her dad to die. This causes her to hurt a boy she likes, so she writes him an incredibly long letter (email) in the form of this novel.

Sigh. I knew this novel wasn’t much chop from the very beginning. But a friend had said it was the best she had read while borrowing from my (limited) library. So I thought, ok, I’ll try it. It was the first couple of pages that put me off, honestly I’m not much of a list person, particularly in fiction novels. It better be useful, like in the start of me and you, but no, this one continued throughout the novel and it wasn’t useful.

There was no conclusion to that ending, and honestly, I was sick of it. I finished it, but that was it. Just a long email of apologising. Also, spoiler alert, no conclusion to the bad guys either. I’m not unwilling to read something else by this author, the writing style was engaging and I liked Cass’ characterisation well enough. But there was no resolution, and honestly the storyline was rambling (I know, I know, it’s the writing style of a teenager apologizing… over and over again).

I’m not even sure I can accept it for the mental illness content. Suggesting that ‘talk therapy’ can overcome hearing voices (even just the one voice Cass hears) is dangerous. As Cass finds out, when she stops taking her medication abruptly her self-preservation instincts go out the window. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been all that upset if she had died. Actually, that might have added some of the excitement I didn’t feel about Paris. Too much foreshadowing for so little actual action.

I do not recommend this novel. I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on it. I’d love to just give it 1 star, but I did at least finish it. So 2 stars it will have to be. I held out for hope of an ending, and nope, nothing there to redeem it.

Bloomsbury | 3rd May 2016 | paperback

Reviews: Unfinished Novels Released to Book Crossing #3

I have a series of novels that I have never finished reading and in some cases, couldn’t face reading at all. In the interests of freeing up space on my bookshelves, and letting other people have a chance to read them, I have released these novels on Book Crossing. To see other books I have previously released, see here.

Jorie and the Magic Stones
A.H. Richardson

I think that I will no longer accept middle grade fiction anymore. This novel, despite sounding super promising, didn’t hit any of the notes it needed to in the first chapter for me to try keep reading. The writing style didn’t get me, and I felt like I was drowning. Even the dragon on the cover couldn’t keep me in it.

 

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold
Iain Reading

This is another middle grade novel which I couldn’t get through. I tried really hard because I loved Iain’s other novel, the Dragon of the Month Club. There was too much detailed stuff on history and background and everything! It sells itself as one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure – but it’s more like six parts history, one part travel and no adventure! At least for the section I got through.